Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia

Freemasonry and the Church.

The Masonic Order gen. maintains a friendly and tolerant attitude toward many Christian chs. Adherents of any ch. are eligible for membership. Charitable and hosp. services of Masonic organizations are available to all, regardless of religious affiliation. Strong humanitarianism is characteristic of the order.

Great antiquity has been claimed for Masonry. OT and NT saints are regarded by some as included in the antecedents of Masonry. Modern alignment with Protestantism has been accompanied by speculation that relates M. Luther* to the Craft of his day. A religious and pol. part in the work of the Reformation is claimed for allegedly Masonic 16th c. groups. All statements about ancient, medieval, and Reformation connections with Masonry are tenuous.

The definite and universal form of Freemasonry first appeared 1717 with the organization of the Grand Lodge in London. Christians then began to note its secrecy and basic deistic principle. The constitution (or bull) In Eminenti, issued 1738 by Clement XII (1652–1740; pope 1730–40), condemned Freemasonry on grounds of naturalism, required oaths, religious indifference, and potential threat to ch. and state. The RC Ch. is committed to definite ecclesiastical judgments concerning the religious and moral implications of membership in the order. Documents issued by later popes, esp. the encyclical Humanum Genus, issued 1884 by Leo XIII (see Popes, 29), have dealt with the Masonic question. The RC Ch. regards Deism,* naturalism,* liberalism,* and anticlericalism* as typical of Masonic religion and influence. Membership in Masonic and certain related orders results in excommunication (CIC 1399; 2335). E. Orthodox chs. also forbid Masonic membership to clergy and laity.

Luth. parishes and syns. have expressed themselves on the issue. A “lodge par.” is found in the constitutions of many Luth. congs. Representative sentiment of Luths. in Am. is given in the 1925 Minneapolis* Theses. This statement was incorporated in the 1952 United Testimony on Faith and Life and is part of the Articles of Union of The ALC: “These synods agree that all such organizations or societies, secret or open, as are either avowedly religious or practice the forms of religion without confessing as a matter of principle the Triune God or Jesus Christ as the Son of God, come into the flesh, and our Savior from sin, or teach, instead of the Gospel, salvation by human works or morality, are anti-Christian and destructive of the best interests of the Church and the individual soul, and that, therefore, the Church of Christ and its congregations can have no fellowship with them.” Major Luth. bodies in Am. agree regarding the basic religion of Freemasonry, but practices and, procedures in dealing with Freemasons differ. Syn. Conf. Lutheranism was comparatively strict in practice. The Handbook (1967 ed., p. 213) of the LCMS contains the following: “It is the solemn, sacred, and God-given duty of every pastor properly to instruct his people on the sinfulness of such lodges as deny the Holy Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Vicarious Atonement, and other Scriptural doctrines, and to induce his congregation(s) to take action against all members who after thorough instruction refuse to leave such a lodge.” Masonry is not named specifically in these declarations. Orders related to and orders similar to Masonry are included. Genuine lodgery is held to be in conflict with the First Table of the Law, esp. the first 2 commandments.

Many Prot. chs. had rules forbidding Masonic membership. Some Ref. chs. still enforce such rules, but many allow Masonic membership. Masonic services, including funeral rites, have been held in Ref. chs. Many mems. of these chs. see in Masonic affiliation a connection that concerns only soc. and civic life.

Questions about Freemasonry and related orders are raised when ch. unity negotiations take place. The issue is also a source of some of the most vexing problems that arise in parish life. Full discussion of all factors involved raises vital issues that must be considered in the area of pastoral theol. JGM

W. Hannah, Darkness Visible (London, 1952) and Christian by Degrees (London, 1954); Interseminary Series, II: The Church and Organized Movements, ed. R. C. Miller (New York, 1946); W. J. Whalen, “Freemasonry,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, VI (New York, 1967), 132–139, and Christianity and American Freemasonry (Milwaukee, 1958); Doctrinal Declarations: A Collection of Official Statements on the Doctrinal Position of Various Lutheran Synods in America (St. Louis, 1957); Lutheranism and Lodgery (n. p., n. d.); T. F. Nickel and J. G. Manz, A Christian View of Freemasonry (St. Louis, 1957); J. W. Constable, “Lodge Practice Within the Missouri Synod,” CTM, XXXIX, No. 7 (July–August 1968), 476–496.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online